TRENTON – Two Democratic legislators have issued stern criticisms of NJTV’s coverage of the tropical storm, to which parent group WNET President and CEO Neil Shapiro responded via email today.
“NJ Today ran bulletins on the air every hour starting at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday with the latest editorial information about Hurricane Irene,” Shapiro said. “As we said in June, our video gathering capability and distribution wouldn’t be ready until after Labor Day, nonetheless with the very small staff we have, we were still able to devote Friday evening’s broadcast to preparations that communities all across New Jersey were making for the hurricane and last night’s broadcast featured the aftermath.”
Democratic Assemblymen John Burzichelli, (D-3), of Paulsboro, and Patrick Diegnan, (D-18), of South Plainfield, both issued releases this week claiming the newly formed television station was nowhere to be found as the storm hit New Jersey.
“Its absence was glaring and unacceptable during a time of great crisis,” Burzichelli said. “The people who run NJTV should be embarrassed.”
He said, “Public Media NJ Inc. is receiving $6.8 million in annual revenues from grants and lease agreements. At this point, I have to question how that money is being spent and whether it’s time to end this experiment and find a way to return quality New Jersey-centric news to our residents.”
Burzichelli and Diegnan sponsored a resolution to void the state’s contract with WNET in the public broadcasting takeover, but the measure failed to pass the Senate.
“While Hurricane Irene was battering our state, NJTV was airing cartoons and cooking shows,” Diegnan said. “They couldn’t even send a reporter to cover any of the Governor’s press briefings.”
In his response, Shapiro said, “Michael Aron and (cameraman) Tim Stollery covered the Governor and cleanup efforts; we reported on Camden and South Jersey, Newark, and Hoboken – with pieces from the Atlantic City Press and other partners in communities around the state.
“We will continue our coverage tonight,” he said today. “We’re proud of the work we’ve done to cover Hurricane Irene with the current resources we have. We will have some announcements in the coming weeks about new developments at NJ Today.”